Club Focus – Newcastle – Fans say goodbye to a hero

The city of Newcastle is currently in a state of mourning following the passing away of legendary manager Sir Bobby Robson. In fact the whole of the north east is united in grief at the death of the Langley Park lad. Tens of thousands of fans have flocked to St James’ Park to pay their final respects to ‘Wor Bobby.’ The stadium resembles a shrine to Robson at the moment with black and white shirts, scarves and flags bedecking the stands. Since his death on Friday, Sir Bobby’s cancer research fund has been increased by several hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Robson brought a great period of success to Tyneside in his five years there, showing even at retirement age what a fantastic manager he was. Sir Bobby joined his boyhood club in 1999 and immediately steered them clear of the relegation zone. He then set about improving the playing squad, eventually bringing Champions League football back to Newcastle. From 2002 to 2004, the Magpies recorded finishes of 4th, 3rd and 5th. Robson was sacked in August 2004 after a poor start to the season. Many believe that the departure of Sir Bobby was the beginning of Newcastle’s downfall which now sees them about to start a season in the second tier of English football. Robson was a true football gentleman and will be sadly missed at St James’ Park.

On and off the field Newcastle remains in a state of crisis. A takeover still seems a long way off despite reports in the press claiming a deal was close to being done. Managing director Derek Llambias was quoted in The Sun last week saying: “We are dealing with several people and giving most of our time and attention to the sale. You must remember that some parties make offers but when it comes to putting up proof of funds they are a long way from sealing a deal. But I can say we are very close to completing a deal and it could happen next week.” Most Newcastle fans have learnt to take whatever Llambias says with a pinch of salt and it looks unlikely that a deal will be done this week.

The latest party linked with making a bid for the club is headed by Dubai tycoon Sirious Mahjoob. Sources close to Mahjoob have indicated he would appoint Kevin Keegan as manager instead of Alan Shearer, but again it remains to be seen whether this is another wind up, a publicity stunt or if there really is genuine interest in buying Newcastle United. Even the most optimistic of Newcastle fans won’t be holding their breath at the news.

Nigerian striker Obafemi Martins has become the first player to leave St James’ Park since the opening of the transfer window, joining German champions Wolfsburg in a £9m deal. Martins was a popular figure with Newcastle fans but missed a lot of games through injury. He made 88 appearances in the league scoring 28 goals. This move could open the floodgates for a number of other players to leave Newcastle. Defensive duo Sebastien Bassong and Habib Beye look like being the next players to leave the club. Bassong, who was one of Newcastle’s few bright spots last season, is interesting Tottenham and Manchester City, with a bid of £10m enough to secure the defender’s signature. Beye also looks like he’s on his way with Hull City or Aston Villa his likely destination, with it believed that the player has handed in a transfer request. More players are expected to head through the exit door as Mike Ashley attempts to slash the crippling wage bill.

Following a goalless draw against Leeds, Newcastle was held to a 1-1 draw with SPL side Dundee United at the weekend. Striker Andy Carroll put Newcastle 1-0 up but they were denied by a penalty late on. The club now kick-off their Championship season on Saturday against West Brom at the Hawthorns. A minute’s applause will take place prior to kick-off at every ground across the country in memory of Sir Bobby Robson. Fittingly, Sir Bobby spent six years of his playing career at West Brom. The Baggies should provide a stern challenge to Newcastle, especially as they have kept most of their squad from last season. Chris Hughton will be in the dug-out for Newcastle and will probably start with local boy Andy Carroll as the lone striker. Kevin Nolan has been used in pre-season in an advanced midfield position and will play just behind the striker. Newcastle will also wear their new banana coloured away kit for the first time in competitive action.

Newcastle United Club Focus

Pre-season woe – July 29

Fans say goodbye to a hero – August 5

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